My Father Worketh Hitherto and I Work: Part 2

John 11‑12  •  18 min. read  •  grade level: 11
(Concluded front page 108.)
John 11 gives occasion to our Lord to pass into a yet further glory, upon the death of Lazarus; and to act by sovereign power in His higher titles, as “the Resurrection and the Life.” Here also Jesus refuses to hold His intercourse with them about death, as they viewed it in relation to Lazarus; but teaches the disciples to look at it in the presence of Himself and His Father; that they may understand Him, and the new doctrine which He declares. “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” How else could He act in character as “the Resurrection and the Life,” without a Lazarus who was dead (in the twelve hours of man's day) and buried, and had been in the grave four days already, so that those who loved him said “by this time he stinketh!” Death and the grave and corruption looked at in their condemning and separating powers in relation to God in His righteousness, and man upon whom death was inflicted on account of sin, are indeed fearful; all men are guilty under the weight of this penalty, and every mouth is stopped at the grave of Lazarus. Jesus is alone here with God, in the presence of Satan and his greatest power! The blindness of the man who was born so, whether through his own sin, or the sin of his parents, left him yet alive in this world; and the transgression of the woman who was taken in adultery, and whom Moses commanded to be stoned, forfeited her own life to the curse of the law she had broken; but “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
Jesus took this place in the temple and passed before the Scribes and Pharisees as the light of it; but they left Him alone with the convicted woman as “the light” to her, who under the law which they used was appointed to death. He had also come to the man who was born blind and had so filled his vessel with “the light” from Himself, that the man needed only to learn further the Person who had brought to him “life,” in the confession of “the Son of God,” whom he worshipped.
Happy deliverances and trophies were these for themselves and for Him who was passing this through the world in a power that was able to turn the very causes of human misery out of it; or in the meanwhile to find a new use for them for “the glory of God, that the. Son of God might be glorified thereby.” This is what the Lord is doing as “the potter with the clay,” and under His skill everything is seen to suit Him and serve His purpose very well for glory or beauty, and just as it is! The language and actings of Him, who now comes into Bethany as “the Resurrection and the Life,” are all in correspondence with such a title. “He saith unto them, our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” In the hands of Him that quickeneth and raiseth, “this sickness is not unto death,” though, speaking as those about Him do (after the manner of men), Lazarus was dead and buried, and in corruption.
Passing this however, we see that even the faith of Martha and Mary, which recognized a “resurrection at the last day” (for this was their hope) must open itself out to take in Jesus in the light of His own perfections “while it is called to-day,” and learn all these lessons afresh in this connection with the Son of God. “The last day” therefore is out of place when Jesus is in their midst, to act as the Resurrection and the Life.
Here we may well challenge our hearts upon the importance of such a revelation as we are considering in all its parts. “Now that Christ is come,” He calls us out to learn our new lessons as “the truth is in Jesus” in His company, and as He teaches us, by act and deed. Old things are passed away in His creation, so that “sickness unto death” and almost everything besides, which is the natural order and relation in Adam, have given place to another order in the Son of God, who was dead but is alive again and “liveth for evermore, and has the keys of death and of hell.” How slowly we make room, like the two sisters and the group at Bethany, for the display of “the glory of God,” above and beyond all that sin and Satan brought into the world and put us under in the cruel bondage of death and corruption; not seeing that the Son of God has laid bold of it all for Himself, to be glorified thereby, down to the grave by means of death; and up to the right hand of the throne of God in glory, by means of resurrection! What a pathway of trespass and guilt—sin and blindness—sickness and death—have these chapters opened up; and what misery would they still record, if Jesus had not passed through the midst as “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” and made all its stumbling-blocks His own stepping-stones, up to the right hand of the Father, and the crown of glory which adorns the victor's brow. “When Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died.” But in this confidence of her love, she is not near enough to His own heart, in the secret that all He is, as the Son of God, He is for the objects of His affection, for “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” He did not come to reach His glory by preventing death, as Mary supposed (for He abode two days in the same place where he was) but came to win His spoils by means of death; and to bring in “the Father of glory” in due season to His own sepulcher, that He might raise and glorify His Son with other glories, besides those which He had with Him “before the world was.”
We may remark here that this visit of Jesus as the Son of God to Bethany, and the rolling away the stone from the mouth of the cave, to bring out man who lay therein “with the napkin about his face and bound hand and foot with grave clothes,” is a companion picture to “the exceeding high mountain” in the other Gospels, upon which Jesus stood and was transfigured before His disciples. His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light, “when he received from God the Father honor and glory, and there came forth the voice to him from the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” The Son of man in righteousness, thus accredited to us by His transfiguration upon “the holy mount,” was at His height in majesty and glory upon the earth—further He cannot rise that way, unless He goes up alone to God, in the title of His own worthiness. On the other hand, Lazarus in his cave “bound hand and foot with grave clothes” under the power of death, was sunk down into the depths of corruption These two extremes are met in the Person of the Son, who passes through John's Gospel (not so much in “the coming and majesty and glory of his earthly kingdom") as in the veiled power and title of “the only begotten of the Father;” to work the works of God out upon the new platform and footing, that “neither hath this man sinned nor his parents,” that he was born blind; or as to Lazarus, “this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
Such an one in our midst makes the depths of this ruin and disgrace to man His own, and it is to be rolled away out of the floor in the title of Him who has written it upon His own heart, as before and with His Father, in the fire of His jealousy, and “the zeal for His house which had eaten Him up.” How will He and the ground and the dust thereof (out of which Adam was originally taken) settle this new and last question, now that man has been driven back “unto dust,” by that death which his Creator inflicted upon him as a sinner? The work, the sad work of Satan, is before the Son of God at the grave—where man who “was made in the image of God” has been laid in the separating power of death, the keys of which the usurper held upon the cave and over the captive dead; buried out of sight from those who were in tears at the felt desolation of that hour. “A groan” goes up to God from the heart of Jesus, who has come into such a scene of helplessness and misery to “work the works of God” in the face of Satan's power and title at the grave's mouth. The groan found its answer between the Father and the Son, “and Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me, and I know that Thou hearest me always.” Nor is this new work of Jesus as “the Resurrection and the Life” to be only for the glory of God (as the first object, ever before His soul) but in truest sympathy and love for the oppressed and bereaved, He adds “because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent me.” In whatever way this grace could associate others with itself in such an act, it is ever the delight of His unjealous love to do! How like Himself is it, when Jesus bids them begin this mighty action, saying, “take ye away the stone;” an act only to be rivaled when all was over, by the same love which bade them “loose him and let him go;” what a moment for them, for they did it! The groan to God brought its answer from above to the opened, ears of Jesus. Perfect in the expression of His sympathy, to the sorrowing and helpless ones with whom Jesus wept, they looked that these tears should be wiped away by power from Him, as the Son of God. Jesus is left in possession of the entire scene, and “cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth, and he that was dead came forth,” bound hand and foot! “A new thing” had been wrought already in the man who walked about upon the earth, with his eyes opened by means of the clay, which Jesus made out of it; but now a greater wonder is to be wrought in reply to the groan and the tears and the loud cry; for Lazarus comes forth from the depths of the grave, at the bidding of Jesus the Son of God passing through the ruins, as “the Resurrection and the Life.” Blessed Jesus, Thou hast won back all that the enemy had plucked from the hands of men, from Adam in Paradise to Solomon in his kingdom and majesty in Jerusalem, as declared when Thou wast transfigured upon the holy mount. In this Gospel Thou art come down from that height, that Thou mightest be seen also to enter into the palace of the strong man and spoil his goods, and take from him all his armor wherein he trusted.
John 12 opens after these triumphs, and presents Bethany under quite another aspect. It is no longer the house of weeping, for “there they made Jesus a supper, and Martha served and Lazarus (whom the grave and corruption had given back out of the womb of death) was one of them that sat at meat with him.” One crowning act only remains to be done for “the glory of God, and that the Son of God may be glorified thereby,” in order that the counsels of the Father and our eternal blessing may be established beyond the reach of Satan's power, and outside the range of sin, and the judgment of God. Who could take up this work, and by what new paths in life or death, incarnation or ascension, could such an end be reached; but by the Son of God come down from above, in the mystery of “the Word made flesh,” that He might accomplish it? In this spirit, Mary took “a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” Elias and Moses, the two men who appeared in glory, on the top of the exceeding high mountain, spake with Jesus of “His decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem;” and He carried this secret down with Him into the house of Bethany, that He might declare it to those whom He loved, and in connection with this anointing. To the natural thoughts of Judas (like the inquiry respecting the man who was blind from his birth, and its causes) this use of the ointment is but waste, and should have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor; but Mary is in the current of her Lord's thoughts, and He said, “let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.” The act of Mary had this significance to the heart of Jesus, and He prepares Himself for the path by which the causes of human misery, and God's dishonor, and the world's bondage should be met and overcome. Long ago the Spirit of prophecy had cried, “O death, I will be thy plagues, O grave, I will be thy destruction;” and now He is come to whom that finger pointed. Jesus knowing that His hour was come speaks to His Father about it, and says for Himself, “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” He who proved Himself as “the Resurrection and the Life” at the cave of Lazarus, has in view His last and greatest work of expiation for the guilty. He sets Himself to descend into the belly of the earth, that the dust of the tabernacle-floor—the writing of the finger—and the original curse upon the ground—may get their answer, and be set aside in His own death, as “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” God, the Father of glory, may then take His new place, and raise up Jesus out of His grave on the third day, as the proof of His own glory over sin by death, and of our redemption; for “God hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” A deeper path than all these groans and tears at the grave of Lazarus, opened itself to our Lord and Jesus said, “now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name.”
It is no longer merely Adam's sin that is in question, or the transgressions of his posterity, multiplied as they may be; for “God manifest in flesh” has come into the midst of the family as a man and brought every adverse power into crisis in His own person at His cross. Satan's usurped rights over man were challenged and set aside by the perfect obedience in life and death of the Second Adam. Tempted by the devil in the wilderness (when the temptations were ended) Jesus said, “get thee hence, Satan.” So again in Gethsemane, when “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground,” in the knowledge that this was Satan's hour, and the power of darkness; still He accepted it in the confidence that it was the path of “the pre-determinate counsel” that led to the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby in life and in death, and at the right hand of the Father!
Obedience unto death was the only measure of His perfectness as the faithful servant who loved his master, his wife, and his children, and would not go out free. The sin and the iniquity of His own, the flesh, the world and Satan; the majesty and righteousness of God in their own nature, as well as in holy judgment against all evil, were gathered up by Christ at that hour, and made His own care at the cross. He not only vindicated the rights of God in His ways with men in government, but glorified the Father according to His own essential being and Godhead; and in doing this, proved at the same time who this Son of man must be, who did it. He who in grace to us, and in infinite love to the Father, made all these His own care, wrought them out in His atoning sufferings and death, when “he said, it is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.”
In the righteous judgment which He bore, as the Just One for the unjust, it follows that the prince of this world must be cast out. In the same judgment which He took and because of it, He further said “now is the judgment of this world.” Unrighteousness must in due time be as publicly judged by God from heaven, because righteousness in the suffering victim was cast out by the world and its prince; and Jesus was with the Father. As to Himself in grace to us, Jesus said, “and I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me. This he said signifying what death he should die.”
Precious Jesus, what Thy people owe Thee; who hast broken through every yoke—borne the curse—put away sin by the sacrifice of Thyself—destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil—brought life and incorruptibility to light—and set us in relationship with Thyself, and Thy Father as our Father, and with Thy God our God!
Chapter 12 closes however “in darkness” as regards those in whose midst He was thus shining forth, as “the light of life,” and lighting up the darkest places of the earth by taking possession of them in His own glory, and so drawing out “the sting of death” itself, if they would only let Him, because He could not be holden of it. But they listened to the law, instead of beholding the glory of the Son and said, “we have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever: and how sayest Thou, the Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?” and they too are offended at Him. Nevertheless Jesus presents Himself once more to them in this group of chapters, as the light of life saying, “while ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light,” lest darkness come upon you.
Like the accusers of chapter 8 who went out one by one, and left Jesus alone with the woman; or like the Scribes and Pharisees who cast out of the synagogue the man blind from his birth, who confessed Jesus and worshipped Him; so these in their turn compel Jesus to take an action for Himself (a last and final one) but in judgment against them; “these things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them!” The sun which had risen in such brightness upon them, and shed its beams across their path, has gone down in obscurity—and set, till another day, because of their unbelief. They have lost Jesus, and the light of the world has left it!
The first seven chapters of this Gospel ended by every man going to his own house, and “Jesus to the mount of Olives;” they then parted company till His feet shall stand thereon another day. These five chapters finish, as we have seen, by Jesus hiding Himself from them and the world. Chapters 13 and onward open the new and blessed subject of the Father's house, and of our union there by grace in all the counsels of the Father, to the glory of “the departed One” who is the Son of His own love.
J. E. B.